Beta #2

Raise your hand if you thought you were done with IVF once your beta test came back positive. If you thought the egg retrieval to embryo transfer was the worst wait. If you thought the two week wait was the last misery.

***raises hand***

Yep, that was me. And no, definitely not. When Dr. Toner called on Friday with the BFP and positive beta, he asked me to come back two days later for a second check on my beta levels. Apparently, it’s supposed to double every 48 (or so) hours.

So on Friday, I tempered my happiness, knowing that Sunday’s beta test could dash our hopes of finally having a baby. I cried to Joe, “It would be so sad to come all this way… and have it not work out.” He said something reassuring (I’m sure). I worried some more.

On Sunday, I was back at ACRM for the beta blood draw. I met a good girlfriend of mine for brunch at Bistro Nikko and jewelry shopping at Solomon Brothers (Tacori Trunk Show!), which mildly suppressed my overwhelming anxiety. As we were perusing the earring selection, I felt that familiar buzz in my pocket. ACRM, on the phone. I picked it up and Sharika, one of the ladies that draws my blood each time, was on the other end.

“I’m calling to let you know your beta levels doubled as expected, from ……………” That’s all I heard, honestly. I was elated. So relieved. Sharika booked my next beta test for the following Thursday. I texted Joe a hundred happy emojis, and  went back to shopping with enthusiastic fervor.

 

Results

Friday, October 21st. This two week wait had been brutal. I went to the clinic in the morning for the HCG blood draw. I worked from home, canceled as many meetings as I could, and paced my house. I was a giant stress ball of anxiety.

At 1:40pm, my phone buzzed with an incoming call from ACRM. Shaking, I picked it up. It was Dr. Jim Toner. He said, “Well, I have great news. You’re pregnant!” I was floored, pretty much speechless. I managed to get out “Wow, that’s great!” (lame, I’m aware.) Dr. Toner explained that my (HCG) beta score was 600, so there wasn’t even a question about it – definitely pregnant. He congratulated me and asked me to come back on Sunday for my second beta.

I hung up. I put my head on my knees and cried, and thanked God. I was so so so grateful for good news. Everyone says IVF is really a 50-50 chance on average, and I didn’t dare believe we would be in the positive 50%. But the results said we were. Positive. POSITIVE!!!

Ways to Survive the 2WW

For the last year or so, each month has been roughly divided into two parts. Part A, in which we work on getting pregnant, and Part B, in which we wait with bated breath for the results of our efforts.

As everyone in this infertility boat knows, Part B sucks. That two week wait is horrendous. You hope for the best. You try to manage your expectations. You Google every twinge and yawn. You dream of getting good news, and what you might do with that joy. You count down the days. You’re filled with dread. You’re giddy with excitement. You are waiting, with a capital W.

If you look up “ways to survive the two week wait” online, there’s a popular list that involves ideas like: Look up the meanings of your favorite baby names. Take a walk and plan your stroller route. Clean out your closet so your new maternity clothes have room.

Oof. For someone that’s suffered through almost two years of two week waits and negative news, that’s a tiiiiiiny bit too much of positive thinking for me.

There are also some super sweet ideas about making gratitude daisy chains or a 2WW advent calendar. Those kinds of ideas didn’t appeal to me, though – I think because I was looking for distractions instead of dwelling on the waiting time.

Here are some things I did end up doing while on this IVF 2WW (really more like Tuesday to the following Friday, 10 days).

  1. Read a lot of historical romance novels… yep I said it.
  2. Binge watched a ton of movies and tv shows (Supergirl and Suits – THANK YOU for taking up countless hours of my waiting time)
  3. Listened to a lot of podcasts, especially true crime podcasts… My Favorite Murder made me laugh even on my lowest days
  4. Made up random plans with non-pregnant friends for random days of the week, so I always had something to look forward to
  5. Planned out some fun things to do for the weekend of my first beta test… so if I was pregnant, we could celebrate, and if not, I’d have something to take my mind of off the sadness
  6. (not really cool add) Work… my work has been crazy, so I spent a lot of the 2WW stressed out and anxious about work… at some points work anxiety was eclipsing the 2WW anxiety. I couldn’t decide if that was good or bad!

I think I did pretty well with the 2WW right up until the very end. By the last couple of days, I was tearing my hear out at work, so stressed out about the beta, and just completely out of my mind. But the days passed by, and finally it was Friday – the day of my beta test. Pregnant: YEA OR NAY?

GOTD: Beta to the MAX

Wow, that blog post title was an 80’s joke if there ever was one. 10/14 Google of the Day (GOTD) as follows:

“how did you get your beta test results ivf”

Today’s point of curiosity was that ultra-critical, ultra-binary moment: when you are, or you aren’t. Say you survive the 2WW (again), and it’s time for that beta blood test, and it’s a couple of hours later and the nurse has your results. How do you deal?!

I’m thinking back to my IUIs, and I recall the first and the last bad news phone call, but not the second, for some reason. Hmm.

IUI #1: I was working from my parents’ house; Joe and I were headed to Miami to see my sister for the weekend, and Katrina, my ACRM nurse, called to let me know the negative results. But the night before, I already felt Aunt Flo coming, so while it was upsetting, it wasn’t unexpected. I also knew that it sometimes took more than one try, so I felt okay about the fact that it was negative. (I mean, I still definitely cried while watching Hook in the basement.)

IUI #3: I was working from home, on a stupid training call about a stupid new tool. The nurse called me and I remember pacing my house, trying to get as far away as possible from the drone of the trainer’s voice, with the biggest pit in my stomach as I listened to the same news, for the third time. I think I sat on my stairs and cried. Pretty sure Aunt Flo came the following day.

Each time the nurse called with the news, I never considered alternatives to straight up picking up my phone and taking the call. But through Google, I found out a multitude of ways that this moment could play out:

  1. You hate hearing the bad news from a nurse. You’d rather hear it from “DH.” You ask the nurse to call DH instead, and he will give you any bad news in a better, gentler way.
  2. You don’t want to talk to a live person, and for them to hear you break down if it’s bad news. You ask the nurse to call you, and to leave a voicemail. You listen to it on your own, or you wait until you and DH are together in a safe place and listen then.
  3. You have a job where you physically can’t pick up the phone, or you don’t have a good place to sneak away for feelings. You ask the nurse to leave a voicemail, and listen to it at home.
  4. You want to film yourself and DH receiving the news. You ask the nurse to leave a VM, then listen to it at home, in front of the camera.
  5. You already know the answer, because you “tested out” your HCG trigger (so you know it’s not a false positive from the meds), and the nurse is just calling to confirm what you think you already know.
  6. You didn’t test HCG out, but you POAS (PdOAS? POASed? POAS’d?) the day of the beta test and you have an idea of what the verdict will be. But the clinical beta will double confirm your home test.

I learned about all of these options from a quick scan through one such forum. Honestly, I think it’s fantastic that women (and men) going through this HORRIBLE FUCKING TIME are figuring out ways to manage the anxiety and make these untenable situations as easy for them to deal with as possible.

But for me? I don’t know what I’ll do, come Oct 21. I know I don’t do home pregnancy tests. I didn’t even do them a lot when we were regularly TTC. As an overachiever and a pretty good test taker, I felt like the HPTs would lower my averages. I also figured, either I’ll have a period, or I won’t, and that will let me know what I need to know. And I was regular as clockwork, so being reliable helped, too. As far as the phone call goes? Will I change my ways and let the nurse leave a VM at the beep? Probably not. I’m too instant gratification for that. But at least I know I have the option, thanks to Google.

Making the Leap from IUI to IVF

Somewhere in the middle of the 2WW for my 3rd IUI, Joe and I were in the car together when I tearfully turned to him and said, “I’ve decided something. If this current IUI doesn’t work, I don’t think I’m ready for IVF. I’m young, we have a lot of time to have children, and I don’t think I’m ready to subject my body to the invasiveness of an IVF treatment cycle at this point.” I was having a bad day. But I did somewhat mean it.

A few days later, I got my period. Failed IUI, #3. I wasn’t so surprised… but that didn’t mean it didn’t hurt in every way. It was harder than ever not to know what was “wrong,” after so many tries. Still unexplained, this infertility. Was it timing? Was it an undiscovered medical condition? What. Was. The. Problem?!

Back in the 2nd IUI cycle, we had a catch-up meeting with Dr. Fogle to talk through next options past IUI and so I had a general understanding of the physical and financial commitments of IVF, as well as the 6-week time commitment required. I can’t remember the moment I changed my mind and decided to move forward, but our reasons for jumping into IVF were pretty practical:

  1. We weren’t getting any younger, at 32 and 31. Egg reserve and health only diminish with time.
  2. Perhaps the IVF process would help us understand why our bodies hadn’t been working to produce a baby over the last year and a half.
  3. We had already met our insurance deductible for the year, and it was to our benefit to continue with IVF treatment in the same calendar year.
  4. We had also been saving money for a new car, and had money in the bank to write the upfront checks that IVF treatment required (insurance only covered about 70% of costs in our case).
  5. We were ready to see this adventure through…and ready to be parents! We’d come this far… so, we asked ourselves, why not? We didn’t want to live with the regret that we didn’t do all we could.

So, in mid-September, I started back on birth control pills for the first time in almost two years… the beginning of our next adventure.

Waiting For ET: Worse Than The 2WW?

I started this blog last Sunday, in the throes of anxiety between egg retrieval and embryo transfer for my first IVF cycle. Since then, I’ve been trying to describe our infertility struggles from the beginning of the story. But for today’s post, we have to fast forward to the present time, because I just went through the embryo transfer yesterday! I promise we’ll get back to chronological order after this (can’t skip posts on the stim injections, trigger shots, and egg retrieval, after all), but I want to tell you about yesterday’s experience while it was still fresh (there’s a joke in here somewhere…) in my mind.

I was scheduled to have the embryo transfer 5 days after my egg retrieval last Thursday. The five days between egg retrieval and embryo transfer were quite possible the most anxiety-ridden days of this whole treatment process. Some people say that the 2WW with IVF cycles is not as bad, because it’s only ~10 days in reality, but they aren’t counting those 5 days before the transfer! The 5DW should be a thing.

Here’s how they went for me:

On Friday, the embryologist called to let me know that out of 10 retrieved eggs, 8 of them fertilized normally. I thought this was great news! On Saturday and Sunday, I drowned in anxiety, apprehension, and the gut-wrenching fear of the unknown. How were the 8 fertilized eggs doing doing? Would we have any embryos at all to transfer? Would they call us right away with bad news? On Monday, the nurse called to confirm my 9:30 appointment on Tuesday for the embryo transfer. I asked her if she had an updated status on the embryos, but she didn’t… she explained that they still had to develop a full day before they were able to evaluate them for transfer. This made sense, but didn’t help my anxiety. Was there one viable embryo? Were there more? The nurse simply reminded me to drink a ton of water, arrive with a full bladder, and take Xanax and ibuprofen in the morning as prescribed.

The night before the embryo transfer felt a little like Christmas Eve. I was rife with anticipation and thought I’d never be able to get to sleep. I’ve been having problems sleeping in general. I assume it’s from the stress of infertility treatment, but work takes its toll, too. I’ve also been waking up a lot in the middle of the night to use the bathroom. (Thanks, progesterone.) But the next morning, I woke up feeling surprisingly well-rested. In equal parts fear and excitement, I got ready for transfer day at ACRM.

525,600 Minutes

How DO you measure a year in the life?

For the past year, I’ve measured life in cycles. 12 a year, give or take. 12 cycles, 12 chances. 12. 12!!! Until we started trying for a baby and struggling with infertility, I never truly stopped to think about how fast a year zooms by. A year of trying, where each 28-day cycle begins with huge hope, and ends with terrible disappointment. It’s a brutal rollercoaster ride we can’t escape. It’s literally life, one period at a time.

Every day, I feel like I’m running out of days. I’m hyper-aware of time passing. I get anxious when the calendar pages turn to new months. I often wish that we had started trying sooner. As soon as we were married. Heck, before!

Of course, everything’s clearer in the rearview. For now, I’m figuring out how to slow my mind down, if not my body. How to breathe. How to appreciate the present… and be thankful for the tough times as well as the good. I’m working on it.

Ugh, life is hard. Here’s some Rent to slow us down and cheer us up: